Eric Sloane’s Declaration of Self-Dependence

Eric Sloane’s February Morning

One night while reading about the Declaration of Independence, I dozed off wondering what it must have been like to have taken part in its writing. Suddenly I was there. With a quill pen I was writing the great words, ” When in the course of human events….”. The rest I do not recall, but I remember the title being different– A DECLARATION OF SELF-DEPENDENCE.

As I think now of my dream, the title made more and more sense. The 1776 proclamation referred so much to the American revolutionists that it lacked the flavor of a personal statement. Now, two centuries later, the population and its government have become so vast and complicated that the voice of the individual is vague, weak and less heard. Perhaps a more pertinent, personal declaration is in order, and herewith I present my declaration for today.

When in the course of human events, the material well-being of a society obscures the spiritual principles upon which that society was founded, it becomes proper to review our heritage and redeclare its reason for being. Only by such recollection can a true renaissance of the original American spirit occur. My nation was born with a declaration of independence, but to be free, I must also practice an individual independence.

The statement of 1776 had unique worth because it was the first government manifesto to totally respect the independence of the individual. Different from other national statements of purpose, it was not a declaration of domination but one of liberation.

I hold these truths to be self-evident, that within our democracy the exact principles which rule the conscience and the economy of the individual must also govern the conscience and economy of the government. I hold therefore that government waste in any form is intolerable, because just as no family can for long spend more than it earns, neither can a government do so. As frugality is part of the family economy, so must thrift be important to national revenue. the practice if thrift is insurance against greed, which had no part in the original American philosophy.

I believe that self-dependence produces self-respect. Therefore, helping a man to be self dependent is an admirable pursuit. But helping a man while taking away his initiative and independence is degrading. Permanently doing for a man what he can do for himself is contrary and destructive to the American tradition. 

I believe in the dignity of labor and the pursuit of excellence. Therefore, I believe that striving for the most pay for the least amount of work is an immoral aim. It is a principle that cannot endure without eventual demoralization of the worker and decay of workmanship.

Just as you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, I believe that the wage earner cannot profit by destroying the wage payer. Both capital and labor have equal rights in the American system, and the independence of both is equally deserving of recognition. For either to strike against public welfare or violate the innocent is immoral and against American tradition.

I believe that the moral strength of the nation is only as strong as the moral strength of its individuals. I therefore commit myself to the pursuit of labor, respect, independence, thrift, excellence, and peace. I hold that self-dependence of the individual is a reflection of self-dependence of the nation, that the American heritage is not only something bestowed upon the individual but equally what the individual contributes to his country.

I consider “In God We Trust” a profound statement of national commitment. I believe that democracy without commitment to God is a departure from the original American concept.

I believe that all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, and that the forgoing creed renders not only independence to the nation but self-dependence for each American.

Eric Sloane – Inserted in his book, “Spirits of ’76”.

Comment: I was introduced to Eric Sloane through his books rich with detailed sketches of barns, bridges, tools and landscapes. Among my early titles are A Museum of Early American Tools, A Reverence for Wood and American Barns and Covered Bridges. I still enjoy looking through them. He detailed the works and lifestyle of early American farmers, notably New England farmers. I worked and played in such barns and even used some of those early tools as a child.

Later I read about his philosophy of awareness which is how he described the everyday life of those farmers. They were aware of every little sign in the natural world around them. This was out of necessity. They built things to last for generations because of their awareness of time. He probably built an idealized picture of those early Americans, but he most likely wasn’t far from the truth about this subset of Americans. At least I like to think he was mostly right about them.

I thought of his Declaration of Self-Dependence yesterday during a discussion with Billy Roche on a different posting. I think he and many others here may find a lot to like in Eric Sloane’s writings.



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10 Responses to Eric Sloane’s Declaration of Self-Dependence

  1. Mark Logan says:

    Mr Sloan: “I believe that striving for the most pay for the least amount of work is an immoral aim.”

    Mr Sloan, should you ever need employment please contact me. I assure you our corporate morality is impeccable. Here the quest for the most work for the least amount of pay is never ending, if not our very raison d’être. Alas, employees who embrace morality are rather hard to find these days.

  2. Whitewall says:

    Interesting term. If this declaration could be introduced in American junior high schools I do believe it would begin a counter revolution in our culture. If introduced only in the college settings…the ideas would probably cause the campus to go up in flames. Americans have spent generations pushing the Transcendent from the public square and all other institutions that manage our affairs which has left us with the secular Rule of Man and all the misfortune that comes with it.

    I may poke around the web to see if any of Sloane’s prints are available. I’ve always liked rural scenes and have several on my walls now.

  3. F & L says:

    I fully support. Long overdue.

    What to throw into Boston Harbor this go round? The list is so long I am trying to find server space sufficient to the task.

    • Whitewall says:

      Hint, forget Boston Harbor this time. I do believe New England now exists in a post modern bubble. Same with the West Coast.

      • F & L says:

        Boston spelled in reverse is Not Sob.

        Don’t ask me what it means.

        West is a Stew and Wets anagram.

        Too hot today. But I leave you with hearty thanks and this further ridiculous observation:

        Post Modern = Stop Mr Node or Done Mr Stop.

        I will leave the drones and mops to the cleaners and Dr Nose.

  4. Poppa Rollo says:

    Alienation. As man becomes more divorced from the consequences of reality he becomes more dependent on evermore delusional assumptions about what constitutes the value of his life. The early New England farmers experienced a more direct one to one correspondence between the challenges posed by reality and our rational efforts to meet the challenges.
    The solution is not to become luddites but rather to appreciate your existence, your ability to solve even minor problems. Declare self-indepence from consumerism.

  5. billy roche says:

    I humbly thank you for the reference. Sloan would have a problem in today’s America. We are no longer one, we’re just not. We are profoundly divided by what is the individual’s and what is society’s; individualism vs socialism. I read w/interest your earlier comments on Gompers. In fact I carried a union card in the summers of 65-67, and was a union officer for several years much much later in life. Gompers was not a “burn this building down” (PP n’ M ’63) advocate. He was for making capitalism’s wealth more accessible; not destroying it. It may surprise some but I agree capitalism must be restrained in order to achieve just that. BTW, I think my wife and and skied right past that barn. We were in the NE Kingdom of Vermont. I’m sure it was that one. Had to be, right? Those who have never stopped and enjoyed a quiet morning in the snow will never appreciate the beauty of N.E.

    • F & L says:

      Is Sloan an abbreviation for Savings and Loan? My inquiry is based on TTG’s author having the name Sloane.

      Mr Roche – did you hit it big via ski resort investments, Netflix stock, Google or Apple? Lumber futures? I ask because of your ardent display of love for how the green stuff is made hereabouts. I’m joking of course.

      Now that the joking is over, are you all set to vote for Jeffrey Kay Junior?

      Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Covid Remarks Raise Questions of Antisemitism
      The long-shot candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has a history of embracing conspiracy theories. His latest comments claimed the virus spared certain ethnic and religious groups.
      A conspiracy-filled rant by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that the Covid-19 virus was engineered to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people has stirred accusations of antisemitism and racism in the Democratic candidate’s long-shot run for president.

      “Covid-19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. Covid-19 attacks certain races disproportionately,” Mr. Kennedy said at a private gathering in New York that was captured on videotape by The New York Post. “Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”

      Do you think the ladies will get his vote now that his large muscular forearm muscles are so visibly on display or is it the how shall I say, the YMCA voting sector he seeks to lock up? Ha ha, another not so clever joke without even mentioning pink star lapel pins post Weimar Luremany.

      Maybe it’s a signal that he’s getting down to serious business.

      And his facilities as a master strategist? Running on a campaign plank which says the CIA killed a sitting US President and a Senator who was all set to run versus Tricky Dicky Milhouse? How could we lose?

    • leith says:

      Billy –

      Looks more like a barn I know of just a bit west of Canandaigua where my bride was born and bred. But much of that area was pioneered by New Englanders. Those 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sons needed land and there wasn’t much fertile soil left at home. All that was long before our more famous western migrations. The church steeples look the same also.

      • billy roche says:

        I think that would be post Revolutionary migration. Funny, people usually forget the frontier in those days started about 75 miles west of Albany. But you are right, the barns, steeples, and town squares are often modeled on their New England roots.

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